Le Corsaire at London Coliseum
The English National Ballet is reviving Le Corsaire, an often overlooked work with an interesting history. Unlike the ballet classics of the 19th century, Le Corsaire has seen many changes to its music, choreography and overall structure over the years, which makes another re-staging both a challenge and an opportunity. Based on Lord Byron’s poem The Corsair, the epic story has been staged as a ballet various times since the 1850s, but this is the first time that it has been acquired by a British company. The novelty of the project means that the English National Ballet team can really get creative. They have thus made several changes but deemed it best to honour the original musical score and create a full period piece, based on illustrations of the oriental fashions of the time.
Le Corsaire follows the adventures of Conrad, a pirate sailing with his crew to the Ottoman Empire to recapture his enslaved lover, Medora, who is to be sold at the bazaar by a sly slave trader. As the Pasha of the citadel becomes infatuated with young Medora, Conrad’s quest to free her becomes more intricate. Episodes of betrayal, violence and deceit ensue, but there is also room for comedy, opium-induced dreams and light-hearted dances at the Pasha’s palace.
The narrative is neither meaty nor gripping, but Le Corsaire is known for providing most of the entertainment with the dance itself, and it often deviates from the storyline to showcase the dancers’ abilities. While the show fails to move the audience on an emotional level, the lead dancers’ impressive technical feats provoke a series of cheers, gasps and spontaneous bursts of applause that indicate their satisfaction.
On the opening night, Tamara Rojo was graceful as ever in her role as Medora and Osiel Gouneo, who played Conrad, was a strong co-lead. Jonah Acosta was full of charisma as the villain Birbanto, but it was Cesar Corrales in the role of Conrad’s slave, Ali, who almost stole the show with a spectacular performance that won him the warmest applause. The set, developed by Hollywood designer Bob Ringwood, recreates the opulent decor of the period, providing the perfect frame for the lavishly clad characters.
The production’s winning card is the display of so much talent. The storyline and characterisation lack depth, but thanks to the sumptuous visuals, the atmosphere becomes alluring in every way. The cast’s superb performances make up for the production’s weaker points, and Le Corsaire’s cheerful and colourful nature makes for a refreshing addition to the British ballet scene.
Le Corsaire is on at London Coliseum from 13th January until 24th January 2016, for further information or to book visit here.